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UNIT G482

Module 5

2.5.2

The Photoelectric Effect

THE PHOTOELCTRIC EFFECT PHOTOELECTRIC EMISSION is the ejection of electrons from the surface of a metal when it is exposed to electromagnetic radiation of sufficiently high frequency (or short wavelength).
The table below gives some idea of the type of radiation which causes photoemission in zinc, sodium and caesium. Electromagnetic radiation which causes photoemission

Candidates should be able to : Describe and explain the phenomenon of the Photoelectric Effect.

Explain that the photoelectric effect provides evidence for the particulate nature of electromagnetic radiation, while phenomena such as interference and diffraction provide evidence for a wave nature.

zinc

sodium

caesium

x-rays Define and use the terms WORK FUNCTION and THRESHOLD FREQUENCY. ultra-violet blue light red light

* *

* * *

* * * *

State that energy is conserved when a photon interacts with an electron.

SIMPLE DEMONSTRATION OF PHOTOELECTRIC EFFECT

Select, explain and use EINSTEINS PHOTOELECTRIC EQUATION :

hf = + KEmax

When a gold-leaf electroscope is given a charge, the thin gold leaf acquires the same charge as the stem, is repelled and rises.

Incident UV Clean zinc plate

Explain why the maximum kinetic energy of the electrons is independent of intensity and why the photoelectric current in a photocell circuit is proportional to the intensity of the incident radiation.

A freshly cleaned zinc plate is placed on the electroscope cap. If the electroscope is then given a negative charge, the leaf rises and stays up. Ultra-violet radiation from a mercury vapour lamp is then directed at the zinc plate and the leaf is seen to fall slowly, showing that the electroscope is discharging. A glass sheet (which absorbs UV) placed between the lamp and the zinc halts the leafs descent, showing that it is the UV which is causing the discharge.

Charged gold-leaf electroscope

FXA 2008

UNIT G482
EXPLANATION

Module 5

2.5.2

The Photoelectric Effect


e.g. Even the light from the brightest industrial laser cannot cause photoelectric emission from zinc, whereas a weak UV light certainly will.

The photoelectrons which are emitted from the zinc plate will be repelled by the negative charge on the electroscope (as shown in the diagram opposite).

The photoelectrons are emitted from a given metal with a range of kinetic energies, from zero up to a maximum value.

The continuous loss of electrons, which is the result of photoemission from the zinc surface, is responsible for the discharge of the electroscope.

The MAXIMUM KINETIC ENERGY (KEmax) of the emitted electrons INCREASES with the FREQUENCY of the incident radiation and it is INDEPENDENT of the INTENSITY of the radiation.

LAWS OF PHOTOELECTRIC EMISSION Experimental observations of the photoelectric effect show that : Increasing the INTENSITY (i.e. BRIGHTNESS) of the radiation incident on a metal surface increases the NUMBER OF ELECTRONS EMITTED PER SECOND. If the incident radiation FREQUENCY (f) is < a certain THRESHOLD FREQUENCY (f0), no electrons are emitted, no matter how intense the radiation is.
e.g. Shining a brighter light of f > f0 causes more electrons per second to be emitted, but it does NOT affect their kinetic energies.

The THRESHOLD FREQUENCY (f0) for a metal is the MINIMUM FREQUENCY of electromagnetic radiation which will cause photoelectric emission.

Similarly, for radiation of WAVELENGTH () > a certain THRESHOLD WAVELENGTH (0), no electrons are emitted.

The THRESHOLD WAVELENGTH (0) for a metal is the MAXIMUM WAVELENGTH of electromagnetic radiation which will cause photoelectric emission.

Different metals have different (f0) and (0) values.

FXA 2008

UNIT G482

Module 5

2.5.2

The Photoelectric Effect

WORK FUNCTION ()
We have looked at the experimental observations of the photoelectric effect and and outlined the laws which these observations led to. What follows is a very simplified explanation of what actually happens when photons of sufficiently high energy are directed at a metal surface. Some photons are completely absorbed by electrons near the surface of the metal and since energy is conserved when a photon interacts with an electron : Kinetic energy gained by the electron = energy of the incident photon mv2 = hf

IMPLICATIONS OF THE PHOTOELECTRIC EFFECT


Although the WAVE THEORY provided good explanations for phenomena such as interference and diffraction, it failed to explain the photoelectric effect. According to WAVE THEORY, photoelectric emission should happen for all frequencies of incident radiation. Furthermore, the kinetic energy of the emitted electrons should increase with radiation intensity. The experimentally proven reality is that photoemission does NOT OCCUR with incident radiation frequencies less than the threshold frequency and the kinetic energy of the photoelectrons is independent of radiation intensity.

The diagram opposite shows some of the possible Results.

In 1905, at the age of 26, ALBERT EINSTEIN published a scientific paper (For which he was awarded the Nobel Prize) in which he fully explained the photoelectric effect in terms of the particulate nature of electromagnetic radiation as outlined in MAX PLANCKS QUANTUM THEORY. Thus was born the idea that electromagnetic radiation may be thought of as having a dual nature. Some of its properties (reflection, refraction, interference, diffraction and polarisation) are explicable in terms of its wave-like nature, but other phenomena, in particular the photoelectric effect, can only be explained in terms of the particle-like behaviour.

Electron 1 is at the surface and requires the least possible energy to liberate it, so it escapes with the maximum kinetic energy. Electron 2 is deep within the metal and it has lost so much kinetic energy by the time it reaches the surface that it is attracted back. Electron 3 is slightly deeper within the metal than electron 1 and so escapes with slightly less kinetic energy. Electron 4 gains enough kinetic energy to escape, but it is moving in the wrong direction and is absorbed by the metal.

The WORK FUNCTION () is the minimum energy needed by an electron in order to escape from a metal surface.
An electron at the surface of a metal which interacts with a photon of energy = , would absorb the photon and gain enough energy to just escape from the metal with zero kinetic energy.

FXA 2008

UNIT G482

Module 5

2.5.2

The Photoelectric Effect


POINTS TO NOTE

EINSTEINS PHOTOELECTRIC EQUATION

The photoelectric equation shows that KEmax of a photoelectron depends only on the FREQUENCY (f) of the incident photon. Increased intensity simply means that the incident radiation carries more photons per second and will therefore produce more photoelectrons per second, but it has no effect on the maximum kinetic energy (KEmax).

Einsteins explanation of the photoelectric effect can be summarised as follows : When a photon of energy (hf) causes photoemission from a metal surface, some of the photon energy is used to overcome the work function (), while the remainder appears as kinetic energy of the emitted electron.

The photoelectric equation can be expressed in terms of the wavelength () of the incident photons : (J s) (m s-1)

Photon of Energy = hf

KEmax

(m)

hc = + KEmax
(J)

(J)

metal

KEmax = mvmax2

(where vmax is the maximum velocity of the photoelectron)

The majority of photoelectrons will have kinetic energies < KEmax

This is expressed mathematically in EINSTEINS PHOTOELECTRIC EQUATION :

Photoelectric emission just occurs when :

incident photon energy, hf0 = work function,


(J s) (Hz) (J) (J) THRESHOLD FREQUENCY

hf = + KEmax
Energy delivered by a photon of frequency (f) Minimum energy needed to free electrons from metal surface Maximum kinetic energy of emitted electron

So :

(J)

f0 = h
(Hz) (J s)

FXA 2008

UNIT G482

Module 5

2.5.2

The Photoelectric Effect The PHOTOELECTRIC CURRENT is proportional to the INTENSITY of the radiation incident on the cathode.

THE VACUUM PHOTOCELL Vacuum photocells consist of a metal electrode (called the ANODE) and a metal plate (called the PHOTOCATHODE) contained in an evacuated glass bulb.

EXPLANATION This is because the INTENSITY is proportional to the NUMBER OF PHOTONS PER SECOND striking the cathode.

The diagram opposite shows a photocell connected in series with a microammeter (A).

Incident radiation

ANODE

When radiation of frequency (f) greater than the threshold frequency (f0) for the metal is incident on the photocathode, electrons emitted from it are transferred to the anode.

A
PHOTOCATHODE

In order to be ejected, each photoelectron absorbs a photon, so the NUMBER OF PHOTOELECTRONS EMITTED PER SECOND (i.e. the PHOTOELECTRIC CURRENT) is proportional to the INTENSITY of the incident radiation.

The MAXIMUM KINETIC ENERGY of the photoelectrons is independent of the INTENSITY of the incident radiation.

The PHOTOELECTRIC CURRENT, measured by the microammeter is proportional to the number of electrons per second which move from cathode to anode.

EXPLANATION The energy gained by each photoelectron is due to the absorption of a single photon, so the MAXIMUM KINETIC ENERGY (KEmax) is given by : KEmax = hf - So, for a given metal, it depends on the incident photon energy (hf).

For a photoelectric current (I), the number of photoelectrons per second (N) emitted by the cathode is given by :

N = I/e

(where e = electronic charge)

FXA 2008

UNIT G482 1

Module 5

2.5.2

The Photoelectric Effect 4 Photons of electromagnetic radiation having energies of 1.0 eV, 2.0 eV and 4.0 eV are incident on a metal surface having a work function of 1.7 eV. (a) Which of these photons will cause photoemission from the metal surface ? (b) Calculate the maximum kinetic energies (in eV and J) of the liberated electrons in each of those cases where photoemission occurs.

PRACTICE QUESTIONS

( h = 6.63 x 10-34 J s )

A metal surface having a work function of 3.0 eV is illuminated with Radiation of wavelength 350 nm. Calculate : (a) The THRESHOLD FREQUENCY (f0) and WAVELENGTH (0). (b) The MAXIMUM KINETIC ENERGY of the emitted photoelectrons.

(a) Calculate the work function (in eV) for a magnesium surface if the minimum frequency of electromagnetic radiation which causes photoemission from the metal surface is 8.9 x 1014 Hz. (b) If the same surface were illuminated with radiation of wavelength 250 nm, calculate : (i) The maximum kinetic energy, (ii) The maximum velocity, of the emitted photoelectrons. (electron mass = 9.11 x 10-31 kg)

A vacuum photocell connected to a microammeter is illuminated with light of varying wavelength. (a) Explain why : (i) A photoelectric current is registered on the microammeter when light of a certain wavelength is incident on the photocell. (ii) The current is found to increase when the light intensity is increased. (b) When the incident light wavelength is increased, the photoelectric current falls to zero.

When electromagnetic radiation of frequency 1.5 x 1014 Hz is incident on a metal surface, the maximum kinetic energy of the emitted photoelectrons is found to be 3.8 x 10-20 J. Calculate the work function of the metal.

Explain why : (i) The current falls to zero. (ii) The current would still be zero if the light wavelength is kept the same and the intensity is increased.

FXA 2008

UNIT G482 1

Module 5

2.5.2

The Photoelectric Effect

HOMEWORK QUESTIONS The diagram shows a zinc plate exposed to weak ultraviolet (UV) light. The UV light causes electrons to be emitted from the surface of the plate. (a) Name this phenomenon.
UV light

(b) The surface of sodium metal is exposed to electromagnetic radiation of wavelength 6.5 x10-7 m. This wavelength is the maximum for which photoelectrons are released. (i) Calculate the threshold frequency.

zinc plate

(ii) Show that the work function energy of the metal is 1.9 eV. (c) For a particular wavelength of incident light, sodium releases photoelectrons. State how the rate of release of photoelectrons changes when the intensity of light is doubled. Explain your answer.
(OCR AS Physics - Module 2822)

electrons

(b) Initially, the plate is neutral in charge. State and explain the effect on the charge of the plate as the zinc plate is exposed to the UV light. (c) State and explain the effect on the rate of emission of electrons when the intensity of the UV light is increased. (d) In a databook, the work function energy of zinc is quoted as 4.24 eV. Explain what is meant by work function energy (no calculations are necessary).
(OCR AS Physics - Module 2822)

(a) The concept of the photon was important in the development of physics throughout the last century. Explain what is meant by a photon. (b) The diagram shows a photocell. When the metal surface is exposed to electromagnetic radiation, photoelectrons are ejected. The collector collects the photoelectrons and the sensitive ammeter indicates the presence of a tiny current. A
glass bulb radiation metal

vacuum

(a) Einsteins photoelectric equation may be written as :

hf = +

mvmax2

Identify the terms

hf, and mvmax2.

(i) For a certain frequency and intensity of radiation, the ammeter shows a current of 1.2 x 10-7 A. Calculate : 1. The charge reaching the collector in 5.0 s. 2. The number of photoelectrons reaching the collector in 5.0 s.

FXA 2008

UNIT G482

Module 5

2.5.2

The Photoelectric Effect

(ii) The work function energy of the metal is 3.5 x 10-19 J and the incident radiation has a frequency of 7.0 x 1014 Hz. Calculate the maximum kinetic energy of an ejected photoelectron. (iii) The intensity of the incident radiation is doubled, but the wavelength is kept constant. State the effect this has on each of the following : 1. The energy of each photon. 2. The maximum kinetic energy of each photoelectron. 3. The current in the photocell.
(OCR AS Physics - Module 2822)

A negatively charged metal plate is exposed to electromagnetic 8 radiation of frequency (f). The diagram below shows the variation with (f) of the maximum kinetic energy KEmax of the photoelectrons emitted from the surface of the metal.

KEmax/10-19 J

The diagram shows an electric circuit including a photocell. Electromagnetic radiation The photocell contains a metal plate X that is exposed to electromagnetic radiation. Photoelectrons emitted from vacuum the surface of the metal are accelerated towards the positive electrode Y. A sensitive ammeter measures the current in the circuit due to the photoelectrons emitted by the metal plate X. The metal plate X has a work function of 2.2 eV. The maximum kinetic energy of an emitted photoelectron from this plate is 0.3 eV. (a) Calculate the energy of a single photon : (i) in eV (ii) in joules. (b) Calculate the frequency of the incident electromagnetic radiation. (c) Deduce the effect on the current if the radiation has the same intensity, but the frequency is greater than in (b).
(OCR AS Physics - Module 2822 - June 2004)

f/1014 Hz

(a) Define the THRESHOLD FREQUENCY of a metal. (b) (i) Explain how the graph shows that the threshold frequency Of this metal is 5.0 x 1014 Hz. (ii) Calculate the work function of this metal in joules.
(OCR AS Physics - Module 2822 - January 2006)

FXA 2008